One Way Ticket: Birthright - Entry 2

Birthright — Entry 2

Simone Spilka continues on her Birthright adventure through Israel. Learning (and forgetting) lots of important cultural details that one can only learn while they have all their worldly possessions strapped to their back as they trek through a foreign country.

It didn’t take long to learn that Jameson is the drink of choice in Israel. It actually only took one sip of my average 11 dollar gin and tonic to realize I had mistakenly ordered prematurely. Luckily – or unluckily – a Manhattan lifestyle leaves residents jaded from worrying about overpriced, mediocre cocktails. This is something one who travels in the Middle East might refer to as "Champagne Taste" or the unavoidable urge to live outside of your budget.

I took upon the ‘think like a local, act like a local’ mentality resulting in a whiskey-on-the-rocks overload – which didn’t break my bank account, but also didn’t make it easy to meet my 7am alarms.

These early wake up calls are one such joy that comes with traveling on an organized group trip with a scheduled itinerary. Another such (legitimate) joy comes from the eight Israelis whom joined our generally secular group to shed light on the culture of their country; a place where at 18 years of age, men and women alike are required to serve in the army. It didn’t take long to learn that even though these young soldiers live a completely different lifestyle from what I am use to, they are not so different from me in many senses.

For instance, quickly into a discussion about music one of the young soldiers exclaimed “I would give my kidney to see Radiohead live.”
What’s fascinating about this Birthright experience is how easily a conversation about music can coincide with one about thoughts on war, the army, and freedom. Specifically, how “finishing a term [in the army] makes you value your freedom.”

Such conversations enriched our numbered adventures, which started in the North of Israel on the Kibbutz Hoquq. These areas are slow in comparison to that of notoriously culture-rich Tel Aviv, but twelve hours of day still manage to fill with ease. To break the ice between our forty-to-eight American/Israeli ratio, the new travel group walked the cobblestone streets of Acco, where narrow cobblestone streets overlook a perfectly blue abyss before our early-evening swim in the Mediterranean Sea along the border of Lebanon. That’s not to mention a hike overlooking Syria or a kayak ride on the Jordan River. All in an afternoon’s work, here on Birthright.

In between overeating plates of pita-less Falafel and Hummus (see: vegetarian recently-discovered celiac) and shopping the crowded Jerusalem Mahane Yehuda outdoor market for produce and unique souvenirs via the suggestions of natives, I am learning the history of a beautiful country through the lens of likeminded soldiers, students, — and now, friends.

But as it so turns out, such history goes in one ear and out the other as I try to recount it at this moment in time, lounging poolside at our hotel with a foggy, Absinthe-produced hangover I built during a very non-traditional Friday Shabbat dinner.

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